Ranking the league's best teams, and analyzing one player who has stood out for each of them through the first half of the season.
1. Washington Capitals: John Carlson - Carlson's 48 points are at least thirteen higher than every other defenseman in the league. At the moment, it seems like he has the Norris Trophy locked up. Can he really keep up the pace and challenge for 100 points? If so, it would be the first time that has been done by a defenseman since Brian Leetch in the 1991-92 season.
2. Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak - Pastrnak is currently on his longest goal scoring drought of the season: it is a four game drought. He is just two goals shy of 30, and will be the captain for the Atlantic Division for the All Star Game. His last three seasons goal totals of 34, 35, and 38, somewhat went under the radar, but this year he has proven to be the best sniper in the game.
3. St. Louis Blues: David Perron - The Blues haven't had a superstar this year, but let's take a look at David Perron. The man has emerged in his return to St. Louis, with a point per game pace through about the first half of the season. He is on pace to smash his career high point total of 66 at the moment.
4. New York Islanders: Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov - It is impossible to choose between the two Islanders netminders. In fact, there is a chance that both of them end up in the All Star Game. Their stats are very similar, with a slight advantage to Greiss, but the two are the reason the Isles have given up the least amount of goals in the league, and are currently third in the Eastern Conference.
5. Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon - MacKinnon has flirted with 100 points the past two seasons (97 then 99), but this year, barring injury, I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that he is going to hit the mark. The former first overall pick has done much of his work this year without line mates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen as well. Watch out.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins: Tristan Jarry - It's not Crosby or Malkin, Tristan Jarry has been the most notable name for the Pens so far this year. First Marc-Andre Fleury loses his job to Matt Murray, who is now losing his job to Jarry. It's not even that Murray was playing horribly, but Jarry is playing out of his mind. He currently owns a .939 SV% and a 1.86 GAA, both league highs.
7. Philadelphia Flyers: Travis Konecny - Despite the fact that there are bigger names on the Flyers than Konecny, the right winger has been a pivotal reason for their success this season. He has a team leading 33 points, and is on pace for over 20 points more than his career high of 49 points.
8. Arizona Coyotes: Darcy Kuemper - I don't think many people are going to argue that the main reason for the Coyotes success this season is anything besides their goaltending. Kuemper has a .217 GAA, and a .929 SV%, both top five in the NHL. He is a Vezina Trophy favorite, and Antti Raanta has been very strong backing him up as well.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews - Matthews and Mitch Marner, despite some struggles by the Leafs, have played very well this year. As expected, Matthews leads the team in goals, and Marner in assists. Matthews plus/minus of +14 this year not only leads the team, but is a huge improvement over his team worst -9 of last year.
10. Carolina Hurricanes: Dougie Hamilton - Hamilton's goal total has improved every year of his seven year career, and it looks like it will again this season. He has kept up about a point per game pace so far, and his plus/minus of +24 is second in the NHL. That is quite the statement for someone who used to be considered a defensive liability.
11. Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine - Laine already has more assists this year than he did all of last year. His plus/minus has greatly improved as well. He might not be a forty five goal scorer, but he has still been playing at a point per game pace, and his much improved full ice game is very important to the success of the Jets.
12. Nashville Predators: Roman Josi - Even with John Carlson's insane offensive production, there is a very solid argument for Roman Josi for the Norris. He is better defensively than Carlson, and is tied for second among defenseman in points. If forced to choose between Carlson and Josi in a playoff series, there is no question that Josi would be the pick.
13. Dallas Stars: Miro Heiskanen - Heiskanen made the All Star Game last year, but it is likely he won't this year, despite the fact that he has played better. With much of the offensive firepower underwhelming (Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski to name a few), Heiskanen has stepped up his play. He has 7 goals, 15 assists, and a +10 plus/minus.
14. Vegas Golden Knights: Mark Stone - Stone just keeps up the very strong play. He is the best player on Vegas right now, with 13 goals and 35 points in 40 games. He is just one of those guys that you want on your team. He is reliable, and one of the best two way players in the game.
15. Vancouver Canucks: Quinn Hughes - With all of the spotlight on brother Jack Hughes, people seemed to forget about Quinn. The older brother, despite being a defenseman, has almost double the amount of points than Jack, and is one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He is one of the many young stars in Vancouver shaping a very bright future for the Canucks.